The news of Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher showing a complete lack of impulse control shouldn’t startle anyone who pays attention to the reality of race and crime. Especially when it comes to those athletes who are employees of the National Football League (NFL), a billion-dollar entertainment enterprise.
Sixty-eight percent of those athletes who play for the NFL’s various franchises are black, and as Jeff Benedict noted in his book “Pros and Cons” – just like in the real world – theoverwhelmingly majority of those arrested for major and minor offenses are black.
Two recently retired superstar receivers, Terrell Owens and Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, are both dealing with predictable black problems despite their status of world-class athletes (child support payments for a deadbeat dad in Owens; domestic violence charges against Johnson).
It was Jason Whitlock, a corpulent black sportswriter for Fox Sports, who decided to throw himself into the murky waters of the Jovan Belcher story by writing a column blasting America’s gun culture; what Mr. Whitlock was unprepared to do in his story – quoted by Bob Costas on the Sunday night NBC telecast of “Football Night in America” – is point out that “off the field” problems in the NFL are almost always monopolized by black athletes.
As the New York Times noted in 2008 after New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a night club, the NFL does have a gun culture. It also has a thug culture, courtesy of its 69 percent black athletes.
But what if, removing the New England Patriots and their outstanding lineup of white athletes (which is only growing) from the equation, there was a player – perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history – who understood the negative influence that thug athletes can have to a team’s chemistry?
What if Jason Whitlock himself noticed this himself when he wrote of then Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2010 [NFL Truths: Colts offense has white stuff, Fox Sports, 9-30-10]:
The unwritten rule in sports writing/journalism is we’re only supposed to mention racial progress when it involves dark-skin minorities. Obviously, I don’t care about rules.
With receiver Pierre Garcon sidelined with an injury, the Colts started and played nine white guys on offense pretty much all day. NFL rosters are nearly 70 percent comprised of African-Americans. What the Colts did was significant.
For a day, the best offense in football was 82 percent white. Austin Collie, Garcon’s replacement, put a clown suit on the Denver secondary with precise route running and nifty moves after the catch. Some practice-squad kid, Blair White, performed a Collie impersonation when Collie was tired.
Peyton Manning is the Larry Bird of this era. I mean that as high, high praise. I’m not accusing Manning or the Colts of any kind of racism. Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell (and Tony Dungy) have surrounded Manning with players who mirror his approach to the game.
Race is not the determining factor.
A willingness to prepare and shared values, I believe, are the determining factors.
I’m not going to get back into it today, but I’ve been writing for three years that baby-mama culture (no father in a child’s life) is going to cost African-Americans jobs in professional team sports. This summer, Ron English, the black head coach at Eastern Michigan, came under fire for admitting he’d prefer to recruit players who have fathers in their lives.
New Orleans Saints fullback Heath Evans has been in winning locker rooms, having played with the New England Patriots the past four seasons. Says Evans of the Saints, ‘I made a lateral move when I left New England. I didn’t take a step down.’
Culture is defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.”
The culture of a football team is basically the collective attitude of the players in the locker room and on the practice field.
Culture has been a trendy buzzword at Saints camp this offseason — organizational culture, locker room culture, team culture.
Evans should know what a good locker room looks and feels like. He played the previous four seasons in New England, the model for positive locker-room relations.
“If you had to backtrack to one thing (in New England), it would be selflessness,” Evans said. “You have some teams that are racially divided. You have some teams that are positionally divided. Some teams divided between offense and defense. Everyone has to buy in and be on the same page.”
Nurturing such an environment in the “me generation” can be difficult. If not managed properly, the wealth and fame associated with the NFL can be hazardous to a locker room’s cultural health.
“I believe the difference between winning and losing, between first and last place, is this much,” Evans said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. “Not every team has great leadership.”
What if the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is increasingly becoming measured by… what percentage of your team actually possess impulse control (i.e., not black)?
What if Peyton Manning has figured this out, which might be the reason why Denver just signed Jacob Hester to a contract? A former LSU Tigers standout running back, the white Jacob Hester found himself a target of racial taunts in the majority black Southeastern Conference; one player asked why he wasn’t playing for the Air Force Academy in a game, a strange racial putdown considering the highly cerebral nature a candidate for appointment to the Air Force Academy must possess.
Must be why it’s one of the whitest Football Bowl Championship (FBS) series teams….
Peyton Manning, who has always been an on-the-field offensive coordinator, calling his own plays and then calling audibles into new plays based on defensive schemes, understands exactly what Heath Evans referred to about culture in the NFL.
He didn’t come back from a year layoff after neck surgery to play for an 8-8 team; he came back to win a Super Bowl. And, playing with players who possess the mental aptitude of teenagers (looking at you black America) isn’t the way to make this happen.
Just read this article about Brandon Stokley from the USA Today [Brandon Stokley knows it’s good to be Peyton Manning’s friend, 11-30-12]:
When Brandon Stokley canceled his 10-year anniversary trip with his wife to spend a week in February with Peyton Manning, neither the wide receiver nor the quarterback could have imagined what would come next.
How could they, back in February, have pictured that come November they’d be connecting for touchdowns during a run toward the playoffs with the Denver Broncos?
It wasn’t for money (he signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum), and it wasn’t to chase a title (he has two Super Bowl rings, one each with the Baltimore Ravens and Colts). Stokley wanted one more chance to play alongside Manning, in the city Stokley has adopted as home now that his kids are old enough to remember it.
Stokley’s sales pitch obviously worked, with Manning picking the Broncos over Tennessee, San Francisco and Arizona. When voluntary workouts began in April, Manning helped bring Stokley back to the Broncos. Manning told Denver’s coaches what he saw from Stokley in their workouts together.
The Broncos needed a slot receiver, and they needed help in teaching a young receiving corps about what it would take to play with Manning. As Stokley began working with the first-team offense in practice not long after he signed Soon it became clear that Stokley had come back to contribute, not just to be a mentor to Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas or a security blanket for Manning.
“Brandon is one of my favorite teammates of all time,” Manning said. “For a guy his age to be able to keep his quickness is pretty rare for a wide receiver. He can be a matchup problem for teams.”
You have to wonder if Stokley, like Peyton Manning and the Patriots white receiver Wes Welker, donated any money to Mitt Romney’s campaign too (Manning and Welker both gave Romney $5,000 each — the maximum amount)?
It’s hard to imagine what the NFL might look like were it not populated by players who are, to paraphrase Evans, “this close” to losing all control and being just another black criminal statistic, but instead by athletes like the ones Manning has chosen to surround himself with… well, maybe not so hard.
Tom Brady appears to realize the formula to success as well.
Americans have been so conditioned to believe that only black participation in a sport like football or basketball can qualify it is as “legitimate” that the sight of white athletes dominating on the Patriots or the Broncos is grounds for searching Google for stories like: “Is the Patriots Offense Racist”, “Are the Patriots Racist,” “Patriots White Offense Players.”
The real question should be: why do Americans tolerate watching a form of entertainment artificially dominated by the very people they do everything humanely possible to never have to call “neighbor”?